The two-hour second season finale of TNT‘s Dallas tonight promises to answer the question who killed J.R. But the bigger question is when TNT will decide the fate of its four winter original series, Dallas, drama Southland and docu-reality series Boston’s Finest, which end their seasons on Wednesday, and drama Monday Mornings, which wrapped its freshman season last Monday.
Of the four, only Dallas appears to be a slam dunk for renewal. Hurt by its relocation to Mondays, Dallas was down from its big opening last June when it earned a second-season renewal a couple of weeks into its run. But ratings have rebounded, fueled by the sudden death of star Larry Hagman. The episode, in which Hagman’s character J.R. was laid to rest, drew 3.6 million viewers, rising to 4.9 million in Live+7. Tonight’s finale also is expected to pull in solid ratings. With its pre-sold title, Dallas also has generated strong international sales for TNT sibling Warner Bros. TV, so a renewal is fully expected.
That can’t be said for another WBTV-produced drama, Southland, which is finishing its fifth season. The critically praised cop show has been a source of pride for TNT brass who rescued the series after NBC dropped it before Season 2. Breaking from tradition of pickup press releases, last year TNT president Michael Wright personally announced Southland‘s renewal in a lengthy memo highlighting the series’ accomplishments. But after five seasons, it seems like Southland, which most recently drew 1.6 million viewers, is heading for the finish line. Three of its four main actors, Ben McKenzie, Regina King and Shawn Hatosy, all booked pilots, with McKenzie playing the male lead in a drama produced by Southland studio and TNT sibling WBTV. Wright will likely mount another effort to extend the series and some sort of a final installment is a possibility, but the chances of Southland continuing are considered less than 50% at best. Southland‘s fifth season finale could serve as a fitting series finale with the poignant title Reckoning. It comes from two of the series’ three executive producers, written by Jonathan Lisco and directed by Chris Chulack, who also helmed the pilot.
An announcement that there will be no second season of David E. Kelley’s Monday Mornings is just a matter of time. The medical drama opened with underwhelming 1.34 million viewers and ended its freshman run at the same level, with the finale drawing 1.37 million. Boston’s Finest has been averaging around 1 million viewers. That is in line with last year’s The Great Escape, which was canceled after one season as TNT is yet to launch a breakout reality series, with none of its previous efforts earning a second-season renewal
The delay in TNT’s pickup decisions is probably also tied to the network brass’ desire to get a better idea of their current crop of pilots. Of the four pilots, two, Michael Bay’s The Last Ship and the Howard Gordon-produced Legends, have been delivered and appear to be in serious contention for series pickups. The other two, Murder In The First and Untitled Dean Devlin, are in early stages of production. TNT also recently gave a series order to pilot King & Maxwell.